Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

For a reasonable cost, Vanguard Personal Advisor Services provides unlimited access to fiduciary advisors. They pair Vanguard's solid fund lineup with technology to design customized financial plans.

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Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services provides a strong customized financial offering with guidance from human advisors, but lacks tax-loss harvesting.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

on Vanguard's website

Fees

0.30%

management fee

Account Minimum

$50,000

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Low management fee and lower account minimum for an online planning service.
  • Comprehensive management.
  • Access to financial advisors.
  • Solid investment selection.

Cons

  • No tax-loss harvesting.
  • Must move outside assets over to Vanguard.
  • Website less user-friendly than some competitors.

Compare to Other Advisors

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
Zoe Financial
Facet Wealth
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

0.30%

management fee

Fees

Varies by advisor

Fees

$100 and up

per month (free initial consultation)

Account Minimum

$50,000

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

15% off

one year of financial planning (requires annual payment upfront)

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Full Review

Vanguard is famous for using its size to reduce fees for investors, and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, one of the largest players in the hybrid robo-advisor/online planning space, continues that tradition: The advisor charges just 0.30% of assets under management with a $50,000 account minimum.

Vanguard offers both virtual planning tools and guidance from human financial advisors. Most of these advisors are certified financial planners, and they're all fiduciaries. These advisors customize a financial plan and provide ongoing portfolio management for investors. Clients must move money into a Vanguard account and may miss tax-loss harvesting (offered by competing planning services), though there are other tax strategies in place.

Low management fee and lower account minimum: Vanguard's account management fee starts out at 0.30% but is tiered so it decreases with increased assets. When looking across the list of online planners NerdWallet reviews, Vanguard’s low fees and relatively lower minimum stand out compared with similar hybrid services such as  and . Betterment charges 0.40% and requires a $100,000 minimum balance for its Premium service, which, like Vanguard, offers access to a team of financial advisors (though in Betterment's case, they're all CFPs).

Schwab's hybrid robo charges $30 a month, plus a $300 onboarding fee, and requires a $25,000 minimum balance, in return for which it offers unlimited access to a team of certified financial planners. Figuring out whether Schwab's Premium service or Vanguard's PAS is a better deal for you will require running the numbers on your account balance. If you invest $50,000, Schwab's $30-a-month fee works out to a 0.72% annual fee — far higher than Vanguard's 0.30%. But once you reach an account balance of $125,000, the Schwab fee translates to an annual fee of 0.29%.

Compared with , Vanguard is much cheaper. Personal Capital has a $100,000 account minimum and charges 0.89% for accounts up to $1 million, though clients get access to one or two dedicated financial advisors, depending on their account balance. Vanguard provides a dedicated advisor only to clients with $500,000 or more. Clients with lower balances have access to a team of advisors.

Comprehensive management: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services provides direct of brokerage and individual retirement accounts, as well as trusts. But the advisors will also take into account other aspects of a client’s portfolio, such as a 401(k), college savings plans or even accounts held at another firm, when developing a financial plan. It’s up to you to tell your advisor about those assets. They won’t be managed directly by Vanguard advisors, but the advice you get will be comprehensive.

Financial advisors: Part of the value in hiring a financial advisor is that you have someone to turn to when life gets stormy, whether that means the markets take a dive or you’re experiencing personal turbulence. An advisor will help adjust your plan, if needed, or be there to remind you that your plan is sound. Likewise, an advisor can help you plan for and adjust to major milestones, such as marriage or the birth of a child.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services does that, offering an ongoing advisory relationship service with the level of access increasing based on net worth. Irrespective of your assets, you'll have unlimited access to advisors for free. The advisors will help you adjust your investments as needed and send you quarterly progress reports. You can schedule time to speak with an advisor over the phone or videoconferencing, and advisors are also available for quick email questions.

Investments: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services builds portfolios on a client-by-client basis, using primarily. In many ways, that benefits investors. Vanguard funds are well-diversified, tightly track the underlying index and carry some of the lowest expense ratios available. In fact, many competitor robo-advisors also use them as the base of their portfolios. However, it allows Vanguard to take a cut twice; once with the management fee and again with fund expense ratios.

Tax-loss harvesting: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services offers tax minimization strategies, but (offsetting capital gains from winning investments by selling securities at a loss) is not one of them. Clients who want daily monitoring for tax-loss harvesting opportunities may not be happy with this approach.

In lieu of tax-loss harvesting, Vanguard Personal Advisor Services reduces an investor’s tax burden using its minimum tax cost basis method, which sells the units or quantities (known as “lots”) of securities with the greatest loss during every sale transaction. PAS also optimizes for tax efficiency with an asset location strategy, placing more tax-efficient investments in taxable accounts and less tax-efficient investments into tax-sheltered retirement accounts. Additionally, tax-exempt municipal bonds are often employed in taxable accounts.

Custody of assets: Some competing online financial planners allow clients more flexibility with the custodian of their assets. For Vanguard PAS, clients must open a Vanguard brokerage account and move assets over. However, clients can hold onto outside investments if there are embedded gains or other reasons to do so.

Customer experience: Vanguard has a no-frills website, and while there are a lot of tools for investors (including simulators, calculators, retirement-planning guides and educational materials), it can sometimes be difficult to track down the information you need.

» Want to check out other providers? Here are our .

Access to a human advisor is a differentiator and especially valuable for investors with complex situations. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services combines personalized financial planning, virtual planning tools and an enduring fund lineup.

Despite the limitations of no tax-loss harvesting and the requirement to move assets onto its platform, Vanguard provides a compelling offering. And those willing and able to deposit large balances (over $500,000 or more) can receive even more personalized advice.

Anna-Louise Jackson also contributed to this review.

on Vanguard's website

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RATING FACTORS

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INFORMATION UPDATES

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